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Mitch Harrison

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What should I really do with my youth? I'm 18, and I want to really learn. Advice from any adults out there?

I am a senior in high school, just two weeks from graduation. If I end up going to college, I know that I definitely want to take a year or so off. I want to really learn things first hand. I want to see the world and study cultures and people. If anyone out there has been there and can reflect back, I would love to hear from you. What should I study? Where should I go? What should I really think about? I want to give the rest of my life a boost and give myself a solid foundation in my youth. Thank you in advance for your help.

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  • May 23 2012: Lots of good ideas here Mitch, hopefully between all who respond we can give you some exciting new ideas you can ponder and decide if they are something to take on. I like it that you are not in a rush to start college. Until you have a good idea of what study you want to pursue academically, there is no need to rush into academia spending stressful hours studying that which you don't even know why your studying [not to mention the student loan potential].

    What would I suggest in this interim period? For domestic pursuits, I would suggest spending time with people and organizations you are unfamiliar with or just plain would never agree with. If you are not religious, spend time visiting different types of church's, speak with pastors, or leaders of other religions. If you are, then spend time with those of other beliefs to better understand their hearts motives. Take some time to visit retirement homes, prisoners, childrens organizations, facilities that serve the poor etc. Meet the people that serve and are served. At the end of the journey you are about to take on, your experiences here will transcend whatever career path you choose. I can find more purpose, more fascinating conversation, more self fullfillment in talking to a street person looking for a handout than any conversation I have with "more important" people. Do not ignore the "important people" of course, as they too can provide direction to your path.

    If you are looking for learning opportunities outside of the U.S., then a trip to any third world country would be worth the cost of travel. There are countless religious and secular organizations that would love for you to find out more about their work in the poorest of the poor regions of the world. I just heard about a young gal who decided to do as you are contemplating and she ended up foregoing college to serve the poor of Uganda. Google Katie Davis Uganda and read her story. It will inspire you perhaps.

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